Stubborn/skittish Sheltie puppy (from rescue)

Posted by Laura
Sep 26, 2007
Greetings from Michigan!

We adopted a 4 month old Sheltie from a rescue league (about to be 'discarded' from an Amish Puppy Mill in Ohio, apparently), and have had her for 6 weeks now. She is very sweet and loving once she is in your lap or arms but we are having a very hard time teaching her to 'come' and to trust my husband. Having raised other dogs (going through obedience training twice!) we know never to scold her for darting away from us. We just retrieve her from her 'safe place,' pick her up and talk soothingly to her.

When we speak the command, 'come' she will show interest and come close but as soon as you extend a hand (even open palm up) or make the slightest move in her direction she scoots away. She's not motivated by food treats at all. Although she's bonded very well to me (follows me around, will jump into my lap on HER terms) she still won't come to me on command. She also seems to forget who my husband is with the start of each new day. Even though she might have spent the prior evening dozing in his lap or going on a walk the first glimpse that she has of him in the morning sends her into barking fits and she runs away to her safe place. She does not respond to his (very gentle) voice at all.

We are dealing with this with patience and good humor but would be most grateful if anyone can help with suggestions to correct these behaviors. Are we just expecting too much too soon (she's almost 6 months old now)?

Thank you very much!
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Oct 4, 2007
Hi there! Your puppy was so lucky to have found a forever home!!

We have adopted one dog and rescued 2 more so I know it is a right thing to do, although you have some behavioral issues sometimes. To me it is a part of the experience with each of the dogs so I am glad to hear that you and your husband have good humors with your puppy.

I understand that your Sheltie is not food motivated. Is she play motivated? Or does she like fetches? What activity does she like the most?

One of our rescued Border Collie Mix had a very bad experience with some men and was abused with a broom or something. Therefore, when she first came to our house, she barked at my husband every single day. As she gets used to him, she started to like him and now they are just good buddies, taking a nap on our bed together!! She is still my dog when I am around and she would not go for walk with my husband without me when I stay home.

My suggestion is to have your husband feed every meal to her, play with her, walk her, everything your Sheltie likes and enjoys. Have him become a "good person" to her.

As far as the come commend is concerned, I just wanted to make sure that you and your husband never scold/get mad at her because she does not come right away, instead you guys praise her like crazy when she DOES come.

I learned that it is better to use "over here" instead of "come" when you think she might not respond, ie, at a dog park, to avoid your dog to learn "not coming" is OK. This way, "Come" becomes a stronger commend and eventually your dog will respond to it.

Good luck and keep up with good humors!!
Posted by Laura
Oct 10, 2007
Thank you so much for taking the time to share what you've learned; we'll definitely follow your advice. We're confident that the passage of time will be one of the best cures for her nervous nature. She's already learned that a leaf blowing around on the ground won't harm her (that used to send her into a barking frenzy) so hopefully she'll soon realize that she's safe from harm in spite of other unexpected visuals and noises. While she still won't 'come' she is responding to 'stay' so that we can approach her up and avoid having to retriever her from her hiding place.